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Alabama Iron Works
Cedar Creek Furnace is located in Alabama
Cedar Creek Furnace
Location in Alabama
Cedar Creek Furnace is located in the United States
Cedar Creek Furnace
Location in the United States
Nearest city Russellville, Alabama
Area 83 acres (34 ha)
Built 1818 (1818)
Built by Joseph Dilliard
NRHP reference No. 77000203
Added to NRHP August 3, 1977

The Cedar Creek Furnace (also known as the Alabama Iron Works) is a former blast furnace site near Russellville in Franklin County, Alabama. It was the first iron ore furnace in Alabama, preceding an industry that would come to dominate the state's economy in the late 19th and early 20th century.


The furnace was built by Joseph Dilliard, the Dilliard family into which Joseph was born had experience running iron works. Beginning in Jamestown and later in Middleburg Virginia. Originally using wood coal fired furnaces forging arms, utensils, and farm necessities. Later as the colonies expanded and coal was discovered wood was replaced by coal and later Coke as the primary heating elements of the Iron Works across the south developed by the Dilliard Family, in Virginia, The Carolinas, Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama fed by coal mined from holdings in West Virginia and Alabama. Buff Warren, Dilliard's overseer operated the property in Franklin County around 1818 using initially slave labor, which was later compensated at the request of General Grant with a parcel being laid out in Gibson County, TN for 75 acres in the name of a Negro Woman named Sarah P Dillard and her infant child, Samuel, which was later confiscated by East Tn. puppet scalawags and carpetbaggers. A cholera outbreak in 1820 killed Buff's foreman a free negro Ed Haslam, and several of the slaves who operated the furnace. All were given a proper Christian burial.

The furnace and site were sold by Transfer of Title and purchased in November 1825 by Joseph's son John Henry (J.) Dilliard a native of LaGrange Tennessee, registered in Deed of Title James Joseph (Jeff) Dilliard, originally of Limestone County, AL, later Greeneood, MS, to Dr John Henry Dilliard, of Hardeman County, TN 11/15/1825, registered originally in the county seat of Decatur County AL, in Woodville. Upon the abolishment of Decatur County by the Alabama Legislature, as the main landowner Henry Benton Dilliard discovered upon survey dated 1818 that the size of the county did not meet Alabama Constitutional minimum square mile requirements for an independent county and petitioned that his Plantation be divided at the natural boundary between Jackson and Madison Counties allowing commerce and development in what would become New Madison and Scottsboro, both stops on the Memphis and Charleston Railroad later constructed. The original land deeds of Title remained in Jackson County county at the Court House in Scotsboro until shortly after April 11, 1862 when Federal Troops occupied Limestone County, AL. As a favor to Dr John Henry Dilliard, General Grant ordered original deed registries removed from courthouses in territories ravaged by lawless guerilla vigilantes, while using his home Resolute as headquarters in Berlin, TN. Dr John H Dilliard, a fierce Southerner loyal to the South yet overwhelmingly opposed to secession left numerous volumes of first hand diary entries of Grants time in Berlin and Grand Junction, referred to by affectionately by locals to this day as Little Greenwood, now known as "LaGrange, TN."

John Henry Dilliard (Jones) operated the iron works implemented many improvements to the process, and the furnace became a commercial success producing high quality product. The furnace operated until around 1859 to 1863, possibly due to a flood on the creek that reached the furnace and extinguished it, hardening the metal and rendering the furnace inoperable. More likely according to family oral history was the Furnace was ordered shut down by John H Dilliard in a word of honor agreement between General Grant and Dilliard in return for not burning his main Plantation Home Resolute, which was later burned by Union deserters from Ohio, and safely transferring documents to federal safety. Woodlawn the Home of John Anderson and Sarah Nutt Dilliard of Natchez is now referred to as the Michie home, and was General Sherman's West TN Headquarters, while Grant used Woodlawn while planning Garrison's Raid then transferred his West TN Headquarters to Resolute while planning the operation to take Memphis TN. Resolute was located 3 ½ miles to the south east of Grand Junction at the end of a .2 mile White Post Oak and Eastern Red Cedar lined alley running north from the main east west state line road running parallel to the old Memphis and Charleston Railroad bed, now Hwy 72.

Before the furnace was constructed, most local blacksmiths used imported iron. The furnace's pig iron was used by locals and also transported to the Tennessee River at Middleburg Landing, later renamed Pittsburg Landing, then shipped east to Cuba Landing in Waverly, TN and shipped to New Orleans, Mobile, and Biloxi then overseas to London, England, Paris, France; and as far away as St Petersburg Russia.

Erected 1815 by Joseph Dilliard who used the iron to make utensils for early settlers. Iron was from surface Hematite ore smelted by charcoal fires.


The furnace was situated in a bend of Cedar Creek, from which it gets its name. The furnace was 15 feet (4.5 meters) high, 25–30 feet (7.5–9 m) in diameter at the base tapering to an 8 feet (2.5 m) diameter chimney at the top. It was built of limestone quarried nearby and lined with refractory brick made on site. It was fired with charcoal made from the surrounding forests. A bellows which supplied the furnace with air was powered by a 12-foot (3.5-m) wide mill race which was diverted from the creek. The mill race also powered a forge hammer, grist mill, and saw mill. A warehouse was built on the river bank, only the foundation of which remains. The overseer's house was located northeast of the furnace. A small cemetery near the site contains about a dozen graves, mostly unmarked.

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